The Jaguars will bring the 27th ranked offense in the league into Atlanta on Sunday. If the Falcons defense plays how they have in recent weeks, they stand a good chance of having a nice showing this weekend. Yet, this is an AFC team (Dan Quinn’s kryptonite) and Takk McKinley won’t be back out there to help pressure the passer. How will things shake out? Let’s take a look.
In the trenches
Right now, the Falcons defensive line - arguably the entire defense - goes through Grady Jarrett. He’s elevated his play yet again and has been nearly unstoppable for much of the season. He gets a decent matchup against guys like A.J. Cann and Brandon Linder. Andrew Norwell at left guard has been a quality starter in this league, so that could be an interesting matchup to monitor. He’ll still need help from guys like Adrian Clayborn and Vic Beasley, who have both been uneven in producing a pass rush this season. Vic has come along nicely at the end of the season, making Falcons fans worry he’ll get an extension to stay with the team.
If Vic and Clayborn are going to win on the edges, they’ll have to beat Jawaan Taylor - a rookie who is playing like a rookie - and Cam Robinson at left tackle. That matchup at left tackle is the one to watch, as Robinson has not been a stellar starter through 2.5 years.
The AFC weirdness has me worried. On paper, though, Atlanta has a few matchups they can win. Whether they do - as always - is the wildcard.
The skill positions
The Falcons secondary started the season poorly, but has improved steadily since the bye. Isaiah Oliver and Kendall Sheffield look like players worth investing time into and Damontae Kazee looks more comfortable at safety. Ricardo Allen has had an up and down season but has mostly played well in recent games. Our linebackers have been up and down as well, though Foye Oluokun has taken a nice step forward from his rookie season. They’ll face an ... underwhelming group on Sunday.
Guys like Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley and Nick O’Leary are mostly just meh receiving options. Leonard Fournette never turned into the dominant runner the Jags hoped he would be. The one bright spot is QB Gardner Minshew, the rookie walking mustache who has the swagger of Joe Namath and the style of John Travolta. He’s outplayed the overpaid Nick Foles and has been a relatively good starter as a rookie. It’s unfortunate his weapons can’t match his swagger.
Again, the AFC kryptonite has me worried, but the Falcons should be able to win these matchups.
It’s been a while since the Falcons appeared to have the edge on another team’s offense but here we are. If they can match the intensity of their effort against the 49ers, they should be fine. If, however, they continue to let AFC teams have their way with them, we may all be wondering how such a favorable matchup went south so quickly.